The question I came across from foreign friends who visited Singapore is "Why are they no beggars in Singapore?" Like any major cities in the world there will be destitute and poor people who are at the bottom of the pyramid. In some cities, you can see them on the pavement begging and some even sleep in park and shopping center.
The answer is Yes, there are beggars in Singapore, but they are not so apparent and as visible as in some countries. In Singapore they are provided for and cared for either by religious groups and various government agencies.
In the Lunch Treat to Elderly program I get to meet many of these destitute and disadvantaged people. Let me share some of the experiences.
In one of the lunch treat, an elderly lady passed me a paper scribbled with a telephone number. She said "My daughter told me that I will be here for three days, now it is already three months". I smile as if should not be a problem contacting the daughter. I called and was told by the operator that the number do not exists. Looking to the care giver who explained that she too have tried but to no avail. "It is not use, the daughter dump her to the old folk home." She paused. "The daughter will not come over to visit her at all. If she does, the old will get her IC number and will sent her a bill for looking after her mother. The bill will be based on her mean salary." She paused again looking at the elderly lady. "If she do not pay up, the home will sent her mother back to her." There was another long paused." It is a very sad case."
In conversation with one of the elderly.
"I received $220 per month from the government. $30 goes to the rental of my flat which I shared with another elderly. $20 goes to purchase a card for the electricity in the flat. I have about $170 left for my monthly expense. Once a week we go down to the local community center for a free buffet lunch or sometime packed lunch. So far I am well but when I am unwell, the medicine will eat into my monthly money. I do not have any saving......"
He was all smile when he sat on the dining table. It was the first time he has been out of the elderly home for 8 years. When you look at him you will understand why. An accident caused the brain to be dented in and saliva dripping down his left side of the mouth. He sat in a wheel chair, a blip around his neck before food is served. He looked at me and smile. Teng Ci (Waiting to die in Chinese) was his first word. "I lied in bed at the elderly home, they clean me, feed me and talk to me." Addressing the care givers helping to cut up his food of nasi lemak and chicken wings. He refused soft noodle wanting his first taste of real coconut rice, solid chicken wings and chili. Depressing..... "Waiting to die".
An Indian man came up to the elderly and start shaking their hands....supposedly give the guy the blessings ......